Saturday, 31 December 2011

Litte sods

It's a good idea when growing veg, to grow those that you like to eat.  I also like the idea of growing fresh veg to cook for gîte visitors, but in fact most of our visitors come in the early half of the year, so it's difficult to have home-grown veg ready in time.

Asparagus is an exception in that it is ready in the early Spring, from April or so, and it has the advantages of being easy to grow and it is quite expensive in the shops.  So I am having a go at growing it next year, with a view to eating it myself, and maybe having some left over for gîte guests.

Constraints of space still apply, and the veg patch is currently at least half-full with strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries.  I need to enlarge it, and that is what I have been doing over the last few days.  I will then prepare a bed for the asparagus, incorporating a lot of sand, and compost from the compost heap into the new area.

I use a string guide to delineate the new boundary, and having done so, the next thing to do is to take off the grass layer. I do this in strips one spade blade wide, making a heap of little sods off to one side. These will be buried later, deep enough so they don't regrow.  Once the whole area is cleared, I can dig a trench to fill with goodies for the asparagus, like sand and compost.

While I'm out there, I notice that the front panel on one of my new water butts is bent; it has been pushed in. I'm sure it wasn't like that before, I wonder what might have done that? Wild Boar? When I look closer at it, I see that the little spigot has been broken, it looks like it has been pushed down from above. All becomes clear. Some little sod has been climbing on it.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Lights in Laval

Apparently, people come from miles away, in coaches to see the Christmas lights at Laval.  We were pleased to go there on a clear and chilly evening, with my sister and her husband who were staying with us for Christmas.   The lights came on as dusk was settling, and after we had sampled a few of the local shops (and delicacies), there were also animated projections on the walls of the town buildings.  This year the show was a review of such things that have been done in the past, including, one year, *gasp* topless ladies.   Projected five times larger than life on the side of a public building. It would never happen in the US, of course (the world's biggest exporter of porn), that nation's children are still traumatised by the memory of having seen Janet Jackson's breast.

One of the things I really like about the town centre in Laval is the merry-go-round.  Yep, it's merry and it goes round, and it was invented before the modern passion for acronyms.  You can ride in hot air balloons, on fish and horses, and bicycles, in submarines, and anything you can think of.  It's great.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tree up

I like trees, especially big ones and those that live a long time. Oaks feature quite high on my list of favourites. There is a fabulous evergreen Oak in the municipal garden at Laval (le jardin de la Perrine), and I was pleased to plant one as the centrepiece of the flower bed alongside the car park.

It was planted 5 years ago as a small sapling, and this was to have been its third Winter without stakes. No such luck. It survived the storms of the last two Winters, but the latest storm clobbered it. I guess, since it is evergreen, the leaves that stay on make for a greater wind resistance in Winter than deciduous trees, and anyway, it blew over.

In this case, I think that only rope stays have any chance of success. I can barely move the tree myself back towards vertical, and whatever system I use to keep it up will probably have to stay in place for at least five years. I happen to have on hand some green nylon rope, and a few tree stakes. So I can surround the tree with stays and hopefully it will stay up.

With everything in place, it feels pretty solid and I can't move the tree in any direction. I guess I will have to monitor the stakes to make sure they don't ease their way out of the ground.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Yep, you saw it here, an advent calendar for cats. Ridiculous! How do you know that your cat is Christian? And not, say, Mouselem? Ratstafarian? Shrewish? Zen Birdist?

Fortunately, lots of French people seem to agree, and the advent calendars laced with Gourmet Gold cat food were on sale at half price this week. Which happened to make Gourmet Gold, usually amongst the more expensive cat foods available, and a clear favourite with our cats, among the cheapest in the market.

I'll have 16, and I don't care if everyone in the shop thinks I'm a cat religion bigot.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

WiFi Wot?

One of the plus points of the gîte as a place for people to come and stay for a few days, is the WiFi internet access service. WiFi is becoming ubiquitous, you find it at McDonalds, most hotels and and increasing number of other places where people gather. It really is a good idea to have it.

It's not a good idea just to share your internet connection with clients you don't know very well. A law in France called HADOPI basically means that your internet provider can cut you off if your line has been used to download copyright material, and although most clients are, I am sure, trustworthy, the gîte business is critically dependent on the internet, specifically email, to function. So a system for controlling and checking online access is mandated.

I used to use a service called ZoneCD. It cost about 50 quid a year to operate, which is small enough not to matter too much, but unfortunately it relied on the company's servers, somwhere in the USA, to handle all the admin. These servers went offline some time ago, and haven't been seen since. So I have had to replace the WiFi.

This took longer than I expected, and I have spent the last two days pretty much tied to a desk, driving up to 3 PCs at a time, trying to get a new one installed and working. For the technicians amongst my avid readership, there were three problems:

1) The WiFi access point subnet was based on IP 10.10.10.n and I had lost the IP address of the antenna so I couldn't log into it to change it. (I think it got corrupted in fact)

2) I was misinformed that this didn't matter as I could continue to use the 10.10.10.n subnet with Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing Service (ICS) (dead wrong)

3) My ADSL modem/router used address (even though its own address is, and for no apparent reason whatsoever. This clashes with Microsoft's ICS addresses and means that ICS doesn't work.

So having resolved all of these, and despite having a most unpleasant cold, and, independently, an ear infection that won't go away, I took time out to go to the Laval Christmas market. On the way, the fog lifted into a day of glorious sunshine. It was good to be out. Back home, it is still foggy.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Climate, what climate?

I remember that when I first started cycling to school, I always took a rainproof riding cape with me in my bag, because you never knew if it was going to be raining by the end of the day. Six years later, in the 6th form, I stopped bothering because by then you knew if it was going to be sunny.

Similarly, I used to expect that snow would lie, in the South of England, for at least a couple of weeks in Winter. Nowadays it's rare.

We're in the first week of December, and have yet to have a ground frost. This time last year there was snow on the ground. This Iris is flowering forlornly in response to the mild conditions, braving the drizzle and wind that are the main features of the weather today.

I don't know what's happening to the climate, but it seems to be getting quite wierd.
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